BY TRISHA ENRIQUEZ
The one concern I hear most about revolves around the tummy area. Mothers often ask, “why do I still look 6 months pregnant?” or “I have a pooch that won’t go away” or “I just want my pre-baby tummy back”. The mommy tummy is actually a ‘thing’ and is likely a result of a condition called Diastasis Recti Abdominis.
Now this isn’t exactly the most exciting topic and it’s one we never talk about, but it’s an important one that all us moms need to know about! I encourage all of you to read on because often times we pop out a beautiful baby and then after the green light from our doctor, we jump back into boot camps, cross fit or some other high intensity workouts. But even a million crunches won’t help “get your tummy back”. Here’s why.
Diastasis Recti Abdomnis (DRA or abdominal separation) is defined as a gap in between your right and left abdominal wall muscles that can result in a rounded, protruding belly “pooch.” Yes, that pooch!
Why does this happen? Say thank you to good ol’ hormones and our expanding uterus! As pregnancy progresses, the connective tissue called the linea alba thins out in response to a mother’s change in hormone levels in order to accommodate our enlarging uterus.
Then finally when our little babe is brought into the world and our hormones have returned to pre-pregnancy levels, the thinning typically improves, but not in all cases. Sometimes the tissues get so stretched out during pregnancy that they lose their elasticity. Therefore, they have the inability to go back into position. DRA is really characterized by the inability to create the necessary tension in the linea alba during recruitment of the deep stabilization muscles in your core.
How do you fix it? Through proper breathing techniques, posture adjustments and functional exercises you can start to restore your core. BUT first, the absolute most important thing you should do is see a pelvic floor physiotherapist for a detailed internal assessment. They are experts in this field and can help get you on your way to repairing your DRA. This should be your first step before any workout or fitness regimen.
Even within my latest 4-week kick-start program, it states that all mothers are encouraged to see a pelvic floor physiotherapist first and foremost before engaging in any exercises. Mamas, don’t skip this step! They will start you with moves that can help correct DRA before you progress to “regular exercises” or starting a new program of any sort. And not to freak you out, but there are risks associated with DRA including back pain, pelvic pain, urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse. Let’s not go there!
Like I said, this topic is the postpartum body problem that no one really talks about, but should. I do hope this article helped shed some light on questions you might have had. Did I mention that crunches are a big DRA no-no as they could exacerbate the problem? Avoid the million crunches before bed in the attempt to flatten your tummy. It will only make things worse. But please don’t be so hard on yourself because your “tummy” might not be the result of extra post-baby weight or late-night snacking, it could actually be Diastasis Recti Abdominis. Bottom line: see your pelvic floor physiotherapist if you haven’t already!
Trisha (aka @notummymommy) is a Toronto based mama with over 15 years experience in the health and fitness industry. She is a certified Pre and Post Natal Fitness Specialist and has a passion for helping new mamas from all over the world help reach their health and fitness goals through her business NO TUMMY MOMMY.